The MLB had been doing everything right. It had somehow managed to create a solid bubble while having fans in the stands. Game 4 of the World Series was one of the most exciting in recent memory. And the Dodgers, a team that has long since deserved a title, had finally won the Series.
Then reality hit, harder and quicker than anyone could imagine.
In the weirdest and most 2020-fashioned turn ever, it was revealed that Dodger third baseman Justin Turner had been pulled from Game 6 of the Series because he had tested positive for COVID-19. Furthermore, he proceeded to leave isolation and celebrate with his teammates following their win.
As the wild night unfolded, the story only got stranger — and more damning.
Through the social media mess that was Clayton Kershaw appreciation posts and LA celebrations (they do it better than anyone), more and more details of Turner’s predicament began to surface late Tuesday night.
While too overwhelming to understand at the time, we now know that Turner’s test from Monday had come back inconclusive in the second inning of the game, according to Ken Rosenthal. Turner’s Tuesday morning test was then accelerated through the process, and by the sixth inning, he was pulled from the game because he was confirmed COVID-19 positive.
It brings up a lot of interesting hypothetical questions: Should the MLB have stopped Game 6 in the middle of the game? Would Game 7 have had to be pushed back a week or more?
Luckily, the baseball world didn’t have to watch any of those events pan out. But as crazy as any of those scenarios might have been, it’s hard to imagine anything matching what America saw on Tuesday night.
Turner defied recommendations to stay isolated and proceeded to mob the field for postgame festivities. In his path, he managed to hug numerous teammates, kiss his wife and take a maskless picture with his manager Dave Roberts.
It’s unclear if the other Dodger teammates and staff knew what was happening at first. Roberts, who has suffered from Hodgkin lymphoma since 2010 and is at high risk for the coronavirus, seemingly thought it was a false positive in a postgame interview. Meanwhile, the families of Dodger players spilt onto the field, probably unaware of potential exposure.
Nearly everyone involved with the celebrations responded in the worst possible way. Turner showed a complete disregard for the health of his teammates and coaches, who all actively encouraged it. Commissioner Rob Manfred, who was already being booed by the crowd, stood by and did nothing, even though he knew that Turner had tested positive.
It’s understandable how hard it must have been for Turner not to be able to celebrate with his teammates at first. The red-haired third baseman is one of the longest-tenured and arguably most loved Dodger of the 2020 team, and had hit three homers en route to this Series victory. He undoubtedly deserved to be celebrating one of the biggest moments of his life with his team.
Yet, there also comes a time to take personal responsibility, especially when it concerns the health of the people closest to you. There could have easily been a middle ground of celebrating while keeping distance. But Turner, the Dodgers and the MLB sent a clear, yet dangerous message to everyone watching: They don’t care about the coronavirus.
It’s hard not to think of this as a microcosm of America today: Baseball players, given access to daily testing and making millions of dollars during a recession, decided to flaunt their privilege by seemingly mocking a disease that has killed more than 220,000 Americans. In the homes of divided Americans, many watched in horror, while many more unmasked another reason to be reckless themselves.
The fallout is still yet to be seen. The MLB may decide to punish the Dodgers for Turner’s actions, though through their own inaction, it has lost all credibility to do so. It’s possible that Turner didn’t spread the disease to any of his teammates, or it could end up being yet another superspreader event in this pandemic’s next surge.
In the end, however, it was just an incredibly embarrassing move for the Dodgers and the MLB. What should have been an exciting and refreshing night for baseball turned into yet another COVID-19 fiasco, distracting from the Dodger’s accomplishments and putting another stain on the 2020 season.
It’s another tone-deaf move, showing once again that the MLB cares little about its players. Knowing this year, however, there is possibly no other way the season could have ended. It is the most fitting finale for the 2020 baseball season.
Congrats to the World Champion Dodgers.
Noah Parker covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].